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Young cavalry leader named Old State Capitol 'General of the Month'

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[March 20, 2013]  SPRINGFIELD -- Young Brigadier Gen. Elon J. Farnsworth, one of the last men killed at the Battle of Gettysburg, is being featured in March as the Old State Capitol's "General of the Month."

When the Civil War broke out, Farnsworth was named first lieutenant in the 8th Illinois Cavalry. That regiment was commanded by his uncle, John F. Farnsworth. Later, he was promoted to captain and was made the assistant chief quartermaster of the IV Corps.

Five days before his death at Gettysburg, Farnsworth was promoted again, this time to brigadier general. He was just 25 years old, making him one of the youngest generals of the Civil War.

On July 3, the final day of the battle, Farnsworth was ordered to take his brigade and make a charge against the Confederates below Round Top. Farnsworth at first argued against the command, since it required riding across broken, rocky terrain against an enemy protected by a high wall. But under accusations of cowardice, he finally agreed to lead the charge.

Farnsworth allegedly told his commander, "General, if you order the charge, I will lead it, but you must take the awful responsibility."

The charge was a dismal failure, with the Union soldiers suffering dramatic casualties. Farnsworth suffered five bullet wounds and died on the field. He is buried in the Rockton Cemetery in Rockton, Ill.

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The artifact on display with the exhibit is an original cavalry flag carried during the Civil War.

The "General of the Month" exhibit is part of the Old State Capitol's ongoing commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. Artifacts from Illinois' Civil War generals, from well-known to the obscure, are featured each month.

During the 1840s and 1850s, the Old State Capitol was the scene of debate over issues that led the nation to war in 1861. During the Civil War, as the seat of government, it was the center of the state's wartime mobilization. The Capitol also provided space for local events aiding the needs of local residents as well as soldier relief efforts.

The Old State Capitol State Historic Site, administered by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. The "General of the Month" exhibit is located near the adjutant general's office in the rotunda.

[Text from file received from the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency]

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